Home Sport Manchester United’s feel-good factor punctured by Fulham

Manchester United’s feel-good factor punctured by Fulham

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United had won their previous four Premier League games to rekindle hope of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, but a 2-1 defeat leaves them eight points adrift of Villa.

Calvin Bassey of Fulham (centre) celebrates after scoring the 0-1 goal during the English Premier League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday 24 February 2024. Picture: EPA, PETER POWELL

MANCHESTER United’s air of optimism was punctured as Alex Iwobi’s 97th minute winner handed Fulham their first win at Old Trafford since 2003, while Aston Villa surged clear in fourth by beating Nottingham Forest 4-2 on Saturday.

The completion of Jim Ratcliffe’s minority stake in United this week and a spell of good form had brought hope of a fresh start for the Red Devils.

United had won their previous four Premier League games to rekindle hope of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, but a 2-1 defeat leaves them eight points adrift of Villa.

Ratcliffe revealed his ambition to topple Manchester City and Liverpool at the top of the English game within three years.

But the work that lies ahead of the British billionaire on and off the field was exposed as Fulham dominated a ragged United for long spells.

Fulham finally took one of their chances midway through the second half when Calvin Bassey lashed home his first goal for the Cottagers from a corner. United looked to have snatched a point against the run of play late on when Harry Maguire tapped in after Bernd Leno spilled Bruno Fernandes’ effort.

But there was another twist in the tale as Fulham secured their first away win since the opening day of the season. Adama Traore left Maguire trailing in his wake before teeing up Iwobi to curl inside Andre Onana’s near post.

“The players deserved it, clearly the best team won the game,” said Fulham boss Marco Silva.

“We were the team which played better, created more chances and had more control of the game.”

Villa opened up a five-point lead over Tottenham in the battle for a top-four finish despite a wobble either side of half-time against Forest.

Unai Emery’s men were coasting towards a first home win of 2024 as they led 3-0 inside 39 minutes.

Ollie Watkins tapped in Leon Bailey’s cross after just four minutes before Douglas Luiz struck twice.

Forest remain just four points above the relegation zone and reacted too late to help their survival hopes.

Moussa Niakhate pulled a goal back deep into first-half stoppage time before Morgan Gibbs-White’s delightful dink cut Forest’s deficit to one just three minutes into the second period.

However, Villa quickly restored their two-goal cushion when Leon Bailey tapped in after Watkins’ initial effort was saved.

AFP

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